Simon’s lessons to prepare him for the coming trials progress well. Along with honing his skills, the masters tell Simon a bit about his most difficult opponent, Vallas. Vallas is incredibly strong and fast, he’s also proficient with all weapons but is best with unarmed combat. Vallas’ largest weakness is his pride and arrogance.
Simon inquired about the rules for the competition. The main rule is that no spells beyond rune magic are allowed. The masters did admit that the candidates aren’at thoroughly searched, so some magic items could slip through. Getting caught with any such items is grounds for immediate disqualification.
The first test will be stealth. The candidates are placed in a series of caves and tunnels in the mountains. When they find another candidate they are to disable them, which means non-lethal damage. When this is done the half the candidates will leave the competition, going from 12 contestants to 6.
After breakfast Susi, Propero, Brine, and Colby go to see Enger the healer. The town guard are already there waiting for them, however Enger is not there. They go find the temple groundskeeper, Gare, to get a key to Enger’s room.
Enger’s room has been completely turned upside down. All of his drawers were emptied and dumped on the floor. All of the guards save one leave to inform captain Serge. Susi and Prospero sift through the scattered papers trying to find anything explaining the ingredients Brine saw Ham purchase. They come across many recipes, most are for antitoxins of one sort or another.
Once they finish the search they go to see Gare again. Gare says the temple was locked tight before he went to bed, and he had no idea Enger was missing. Gare then takes the group too see something he intended to report before the guards dragged him to Enger’s room.
Several of the graves have been opened, as if something inside forced its way out. Colby notices odd scratched marks on the head stones. These are identified as runes for death, chaos, and man. An examination makes the runes look to be seven or ten days old. Prospero declares these runes to be necromantic, and a major component to raising the undead.
At Colby’s suggestion they party goes through the graveyard and removes similar runes from another dozen headstones. The guards didn’t patrol the graveyard, but after this discovery it will become part of their routes.
The party then heads to visit Helmund at Malo’s blacksmith shop. Helmund claims that the dagger Colby wanted has been lost, but if properly motivated he can search for it. After a brief discussion Colby agrees to the price of 1,200 silver for the blade and the exchange is made. The blade was appraised at a full price of 4,000 silver.
They ask Helmund to show them the supplies Malo received just prior to his death. Brine confirms the water is from the sundered sea. Prospero cant tell the origin of the ore, but all seems well with it.
Helmund suggests that Malo’s journal might have some notes on it. Reading the last entries reveals that Malo thought the ore to be from the Firewall mountains, instead of Stone Rim mountains. This was a vastly inferior ore, and comes from deep in the Lazuri empire.
Helmund then says that he doesn’t wish to remain here hoping for a new apprenticeship, and goes off to see Captain Ward about signing on with the party’s ship.
The last place the party wanted to stop was the Low Temple. Before arriving there they spot a dwarf that Prospero recognizes as a fire sorcerer. The dwarf says his name is Noss and he arrived with the caravan. Noss is merely an apprentice to the caravan leader, Ashook the Finder from the College of Perception. Noss says the ore came from a mine his cousins run in the Stone Rim mountains.
After Noss departs, Colby heads back to Helmund to get a sample of the ore as evidence. With all the conspiracies and deaths from this Caravan he fear’s for Helmund’s safety, and offers to walk with him to Captain Ward.
Susi goes into the low temple and speaks with Tilda. He tells her of the zombie attack and asks if he might peruse the books to discover some source behind it. She agrees and helps locate books for his research. She helps for a while before beggin off to make preparations for a ceremony. As she departs Susi sees her slip some papers into her pocket.
Prospero goes to find Father Thury. The two speak for a while before Prospero reveals all that the group discovered. The ore, zombie attacks, Lazuri in the caravan, the missing healer, Vallas’ rune tattoos, and runes on the gravestones. Thury is in shock, he can only think that Prospero is paranoid and demands some proof of all these allegations. Prospero says that Susi saw the tattoos on Vallas and he could draw them.
When they find Susi they interrupt his reading to have him draw the runes he saw. Thury is very surprised, and agrees that they are binding runes. Not just binding runes, but other very obscure ones are masking runes. Then Tilda appears at the top of the stairs, saying it’s unfortunate that they discovered so much. She then closes and locks the door.
Elsewhere, Colby and Helmund never make it to the docks. They spot Noss talking with the town guard and pointing in their direction. Colby turns down the shortest path to the low temple to regroup with Susi and Prospero.
When Colby arrives he can hear Prospero summoning earth elementals who then break open the door allowing everyone out of the basement.
The temple is completely empty. Father Thury halts their search for Tilda to review what all they know. Brine, Colby, Helmund, Prospero, Susi, and Thury all exchange information and plan what to do.
Thury says that the maskin runes come from malomorphs, shape shifters. They can’t be found with divination or other methods of detection. Even if Vallas isn’t a malomorph his aura is hidden. There is no way to reach Simon, or anyone at the high temple, since it will be closed until the trials are complete.
Simon succeeds in the first trial, he placed in the top 4. He received a single wound, from an encounter with Vallas.
The next test was for missile weapons. On each of the landings of the 10,000 steps 18 poles are set up. The candidates will climb the poles then attempt to knock off their opponents with ranged attacks.
Brine, Colby, Susi, and Prospero all meet with the blacksmith’s guild. It takes several hours of conversation before the guild agrees that something must be done. They agree to assist the party in any way they can.
Colby asks them to examine the new armor and weapons gifted to the guards from the caravan. Prove that it’s Firewall Mountain ore, which could reveal the caravan to be from Lazuri lands. Then the smiths are to re-equip the guards, this should negate the bribe the caravan offered them.
Thury offers to go with the master smiths, he knows which guards will be best to work with during their investigation.
Colby offers to scout the warehouse the caravan is staying in that night. The rest of the group will be staying in a house across the street.
Prospero casts invisibility on Colby who uses a Mindspeech spell to keep in communication with the group. While casing the place Colby finds himself in a tree, when a guard happens to notice him despite the concealment.